Chest infections are fairly common particularly at certain times of the year and can occur after a cold.
The severity of chest infections can vary from very mild to very serious infections.
A chest infection is an infection of the lungs or the large airways of the lungs. This is different to upper respiratory infections, which typically affects your nose or throat and is usually due to a virus. This is like a common cold and just requires some time for your immune infection to fight it off.
Chest infections can largely be divided into infection of the large airways of the lungs (Bronchitis) or infection of the lung itself (pneumonia).
Bronchitis is usually due to a virus however pneumonia is often due to a bacteria and can be more serious.
Symptoms of a chest infection may include a persistent dry or productive cough, shortness or breath, fever, general aches and pains and shortness or breath. There may also be non specific symptoms in including a headache, feeling or your heart beating faster than usual, loss of appetite, general aches and pains and confusion.
Chest infections are as a result of an infection in the lung or large airways, this may be either a bacteria or a virus. The bacteria or virus is usually passed on from a person that has the infection through the air, for example when someone coughs or sneezes.
Although chest infections can affect anyone there are certain groups of people that are more likely to develop chest infections, they include people with chronic long term health problems, such as asthma, diabetes etc, the very young and elderly,smokers or people with a reduced immune system- for example patients undergoing cancer treatment, or on certain medications.
Although chest infections are very common and transmittable there are lots of ways to prevent infection.
Firstly stopping smoking to ensure good lung health is vital.
It is also important to stop transmission of infection through good hygiene; covering your nose or mouth when coughing or sneezing, washing hands regularly and throwing away tissues immediately after use are all effective.
The management of a chest infection will depend on whether the infection is thought to be caused by a virus or a bacteria.
A viral bout of bronchitis will generally last 7-10 days and does not need antibiotics. If the illness is thought to be pneumonia a course of antibiotics usually treats the infection.
For both forms of infection, it is important to ensure that you have enough rest and well hydrated and take appropriate medication such as paracetamol, ibuprofen to control any pain and to help manage the temperature.